Here's an oddity. During the three-day weekend, my wife and I attended an auction advertised in our local paper which occurred in a large warehouse near the railroad. A big building, it had the various items for sale arranged either in the center or along the perimeter, with a concourse within for the auctioneer, who sat in the back of a large truck with a portable PA and a wireless mike and periodically instructed the truck's driver to inch a few feet down the line to the next item.

The warehouse, wrapped in corrugated metal, was as cold as it was outside. Some mom-and-pop vendor was pushing breakfast burritos, hot links and coffee but it never really warmed up. Within a corner of the warehouse, the actual billing was handled inside a makeshift tent filled with an old PC, a dot matrix printer, and a portable heater on a propane tank. It wasn't that warm, either. Fact is, it could've been sunny as hell outside, and people would've shivered occasionally: the contents of the auction, by-and-large, came from storage units abandoned by their owner, the past proprietor of Madera Funeral Home, whose fall from grace with the state is outlined here.

Apparently this fella couldn't pay his bills, and so whatever was stored was now up for grabs. Much of it was junk, personal possessions not worthy of description. A few gen-u-wine antiques, such as a pump organ and a rare Dr. Seuss book, were amongst the effects. There was office furniture galore, awful fake gold-gilt interiors, bad religious art of the worst kind, and....mortuary stuff.

Oh, yes. Boxes of CHAMPION arterial embalming fluid. Gurneys and stretchers for the...recently departed. Gravestones. Floral arrangements. Tripods. Racks. A truly charming porcelain rectangular platter with a handle to, um, transfer the deceased. And many filing cabinets and boxes filled with...

Death certificates. Hard to believe. You have to wonder if it was even legal to auction these things off, given that the ones that I browsed met their reward less than 15 years ago. As for me, I didn't allow the macabre environment prevent me from finding a couple of items of value. There was a literature cabinet with twenty 8 1/2 X 11 acrylic slots that was no doubt used to hold various burial plans and other notices. At a mere 5$, this item, made of solid oak, will be a nice addition to my biology classroom. And, a real find, three audiophile quality loudspeakers about 25 years old, in perfect working order, a mere 55$. My wife beams behind them, perhaps unaware of her proximity to the above filing cabinets....


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